Learning gives creativity,
Creativity leads to thinking,
Thinking provides knowledge,
Knowledge makes you great.
When Abdul Kalam, our past President, the late scientist and best educationist of our times stated this, what did he mean by it? Especially the last sentence – knowledge makes you great? In what way? Of course as a better human being. Because knowledge gives one wisdom, maturity, enlightenment and empowerment. All these human virtues enable one not only to become self-reliant but also to help socio-economic problems through various ways – of which one of the most effective in today’s time could be innovative, sustainable, socially good, inclusive, and fair revenue generating entrepreneurship known in industry parlance as Social Enterprise or SOCENT.
A Reality Check In Goal Of Education
Students actively pursue knowledge in educational institutions. The immediate goal or outcome of undergraduate students in their pursuit of knowledge is economic self-reliance and empowerment in the form of mostly a salaried job and in some cases entrepreneurship. Along the way as a productive member of the society, depending upon the ‘knowledge’ he has gained and keeps gaining from life, a person attains the higher levels of greatness as a human being. But when it comes to opting for “For Profit Social Entrepreneurship” as a career choice – i.e. to create socio-economic impact through innovative, sustainable, fair profit model of entrepreneurship, it is yet to gain momentum, despite the best of ‘knowledge’ imparted through B-schools in entrepreneurship. One of the articles on this platform explored and found out the above stated fact.
One of the reasons could be very less emphasis in our high school education on entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship in particular, training in life skills and hands on skill building.
A Students’ Account Of The Role Of High School Education System In Boosting Social Entrepreneurship
The students, both in schools and colleges do get some amount of exposure to the social issues through NGO visits or associations, offering help in form of knowledge, inspiration, cash or kind. But it remains as a ‘social work’, as an extra-curricular part of their study and not as an inclusive or integral part of their education. Students in their formative years, especially during their higher secondary education are not properly exposed to and educated about the socio-economic problems at the grass root or ground zero; the inculcation of a sense of ownership, involvement, accountability and responsibility towards these problems, an attitude of solving such problems not only through off and on philanthropic activities, but by adopting a scalable, sustainable and entrepreneurial approach does not happen through our heavily academic, examination centric education system.
Shrreya Bhatachaarya, a new graduate in computer engineering who did her schooling in ICSE board says, “We had a subject called Socially Useful Productive Work (SUPW). But we never did anything under that. It was there just for namesake and we all got ‘A’ grade in that without actually doing anything. However that ‘A’ grade was just ornamental and not for adding any value either to our academic result or knowledge. We were also taken for an excursion under the banner of ‘social service workshop’ in our 10th grade. It was nothing but a fun and frolic excursion.”
Shrreya continues to point out that “We have always been taught by our parents as well as teachers to look at our education as a means to get a well-paying job, our ticket to a secured life and not as a means to acquiring knowledge to solve social problems. All the jobs in this world are nothing but providing solutions to some or other social problem or need at different demographic levels. But all our life, especially in India, we look at social problems as some natural extensions of our societal existence and do not feel the compelling need to look at them as opportunity to do something about it through a sustainable, scalable, innovative, social impact enterprise.”
Pranay Tuteja, a student of CBSE board from Gurgaon who is now a Law undergraduate, reiterates the same while sharing that they did take part in programs such as Teach India or volunteered to teach art, music and dance to students from underprivileged section of the community who attended his school in a different shift. But apart from that there was not any exposure to social entrepreneurship in their higher secondary level at school.
Teachers’ Take On Social Entrepreneurship In High School Education
Mrs Snigdha Roy, the Principal of Father Agnel Multipurpose School and Junior College in Navi Mumbai, a prominent state board school of Maharashtra, while admitting the theoretical orientation of the present high school curriculum and lack of much emphasis on entrepreneurial studies maintains that the education system is slowly changing and her school does take an effort to inculcate social sensitivity and awareness to social problems. Various out of curriculum ‘outreach’ programs such as participation in kitchen gardening and donating the produce to an orphanage next to the school, an annual mini marathon for which the students save and generate the registration fees for participation from their pocket-money throughout the year and donate it for a cause, helping the special students in their class who have learning dyslexia, autism or problems like Down Syndrome are run by her school.
The school also invites its alumni who are doing socially meaningful work or entrepreneurship to talk to the present higher secondary students. They encourage the students to participate in art, craft, and sports workshops during the summer camps to build team spirit and creativity. Other activities include nature walk, trekking for environmental awareness, discussing ideas and exemplary stories of people providing extra ordinary contribution to the community.
Mr Ganesh Parameswaran, the Principal of Bal Bharati Public School in Navi Mumbai too feels our education system is too text bookish and all non-scholastic team activities tend to encourage team building and problem solving. He also opines, “Academic, administrative and financial autonomy for schools coupled with no top down approach from government will help to do meaningful activities in school” to encourage entrepreneurial talent and ambition.
Vasumati Ravisankar, a Mumbai based student counselor working with all age group students for last 25 years says our education system both at home and school needs to be less straight jacketed and pressure cooker like situation and should give more free space and wider horizon to develop students’ individual potential and learn life skills which promotes entrepreneurship both in social and commercial sectors.
Padma Rewari, a sports Councillor with Reliance Foundation, consultant and mentor feels there should be more dynamic changes in our current education system creating more options for choice, scope and opportunity for unconventional learning, life skill learning and individual need and talent based learning. She refers to famous American motivational author Louise L Hay who said, “I have never understood the importance of having children memorize battle dates. It seems like such a waste of mental energy. Instead, we could teach them important subjects such as How the Mind Works, How to Handle Finances, How to Invest Money for Financial Security, How to be a Parent, How to Create Good Relationships, and How to Create and Maintain Self-Esteem and Self-Worth. Can you imagine what a whole generation of adults would be like if they had been taught these subjects in school along with their curriculum.
Louise L Hay
A Social Entrepreneur’s Thoughts
Mr P R Ganapathy, the COO of Villgro points out the “Dichotomy in our society – people with an education are far removed from the problems of the poor.”
He explains, “Our society has many, deep-rooted problems such as lack of livelihood opportunities, inadequate sanitation facilities, lack of clean drinking water, low health outcomes because of an overburdened medical system, low productivity in agriculture, poor education outcomes, lack of access to energy, etc.
Traditional ways to address these problems – government programs and NGOs – lack efficiency and innovation. NGOs have struggled to attract talent, and to scale. On the other hand, social enterprises, using the power of the market, have shown the ability to innovate, attract funding and talent, and to scale.”
The problem solving approach is changing fast all over the world. Technological advancement is disrupting old school of thoughts or practices in solving socio-economic problems. Globalisation and technology have altered work patterns and altered the skills needed to build successful work lives. The same is true for solving socio-economic problems all over the world. Hence the need for For Profit Social Entrepreneurship.
India also needs more job creators than job seekers. Social entrepreneurship has immense scope to unleash the employment and revenue generation potential in our long neglected socio-economic issues. Ashoka – the world’s leading investor in social entrepreneurs support School Enterprise Challenge and awards ‘People’ prize to successful social enterprise by school students.
For a very long time, students have been brought up by making them cram information that most often is not useful to them in real life. If we really want the future generations to uplift our country from the multitude of socio-economic and environmental ills plaguing it, we need to educate them about these problems and encourage them to come up with solutions. We need an army of problem-solvers to realize our true collective potential as a nation. Why not start in high school?